Skip to main content

Saving the Polar Bears

David Yurman is proud to support Polar Bears International for the second year in a row this holiday season. We believe that this endangered creature is a North Star for all of us—a beacon of light that guides our journey. If we let it disappear, we lose our way. It’s important to take action and protect the Earth.

 

To understand more about how we can protect these mighty beasts, we spoke to Dr. Thea Bechshoft, a marine mammal biologist and staff scientist at Polar Bears International (PBI). The only non-profit dedicated solely to wild polar bears, PBI is a 19-person organization comprised of passionate conservationists, scientists and volunteers.

Saving the Polar Bears

David Yurman is proud to support Polar Bears International for the second year in a row this holiday season. We believe that this endangered creature is a North Star for all of us—a beacon of light that guides our journey. If we let it disappear, we lose our way. It’s important to take action and protect the Earth.

 

To understand more about how we can protect these mighty beasts, we spoke to Dr. Thea Bechshoft, a marine mammal biologist and staff scientist at Polar Bears International (PBI). The only non-profit dedicated solely to wild polar bears, PBI is a 19-person organization comprised of passionate conservationists, scientists and volunteers.

A color photo shows Dr. Thea Bechshoft standing in front of a snow-covered Arctic landscape wearing a blue parka and a red-and-orange scarf.

Dr. Thea Bechshoft is a staff scientist for Polar Bears International.

Dr. Thea Bechshoft is a staff scientist for Polar Bears International.

What effects of climate change have you seen firsthand?

I have seen parts of the Arctic tundra erode as the permafrost melts, and I have witnessed the dwindling glaziers and sea ice in Svalbard. The Western Hudson Bay population of polar bears, one that I work closely with, has dropped by 30 percent since the 1980s, due to longer ice-free periods and reduced access to seals. But many of the changes taking place are so gradual—at least from a human perspective—that they can be easy to overlook

 

This is why satellite data and other historical sea ice records are incredibly important in order for us to identify the long-term trends of what is happening to the Arctic sea ice extent and thickness. Without long-term continuous, impartial monitoring, we may become oblivious to the critical changes caused to the Arctic ecosystem by our warming climate. 

What effects of climate change have you seen firsthand?

I have seen parts of the Arctic tundra erode as the permafrost melts, and I have witnessed the dwindling glaziers and sea ice in Svalbard. The Western Hudson Bay population of polar bears, one that I work closely with, has dropped by 30 percent since the 1980s, due to longer ice-free periods and reduced access to seals. But many of the changes taking place are so gradual—at least from a human perspective—that they can be easy to overlook

 

This is why satellite data and other historical sea ice records are incredibly important in order for us to identify the long-term trends of what is happening to the Arctic sea ice extent and thickness. Without long-term continuous, impartial monitoring, we may become oblivious to the critical changes caused to the Arctic ecosystem by our warming climate. 

How does climate change affect polar bears?

Healthy sea ice is essential to polar bears. It provides them with a platform from which to hunt seals, on which to wander, on which to find their mates in the spring, and sometimes even as a place to den and have their cubs. Climate change is causing the Arctic sea ice to decline in extent and quality, thereby affecting all aspects of a polar bear’s life. 

How does climate change affect polar bears?

Healthy sea ice is essential to polar bears. It provides them with a platform from which to hunt seals, on which to wander, on which to find their mates in the spring, and sometimes even as a place to den and have their cubs. Climate change is causing the Arctic sea ice to decline in extent and quality, thereby affecting all aspects of a polar bear’s life. 

We have the power to stop
human-caused climate change
and save the Arctic ecosystem.

— D R .   T H E A   B E C H S H O F T

We have the power to stop human-caused climate change and save the Arctic ecosystem.

— D R .   T H E A   B E C H S H O F T

What if the polar bears migrated to the North Pole? 

The area around the North Pole is largely without seals. Polar bears that are without access to seals will starve, losing approximately 1 kg or 2 pounds per day. The longer they are forced to be on land or over unproductive water masses, the skinnier they will be. Being in poor body condition affects the bear’s chances of surviving lean periods, and for adult female bears also affects their reproductive success; they have fewer and smaller cubs that are less likely to make it to adulthood. 

What if the polar bears migrated to the North Pole? 

The area around the North Pole is largely without seals. Polar bears that are without access to seals will starve, losing approximately 1 kg or 2 pounds per day. The longer they are forced to be on land or over unproductive water masses, the skinnier they will be. Being in poor body condition affects the bear’s chances of surviving lean periods, and for adult female bears also affects their reproductive success; they have fewer and smaller cubs that are less likely to make it to adulthood. 

What is the goal of Polar Bears International? 

Our mission is to conserve polar bears and the sea ice they depend on. We do this through media, science and advocacy, and work to inspire people to care about the Arctic, the threats to its future, and the connection between this remote region and our global climate. Together, we can make sure that polar bears roam the sea ice for generations to come, while also improving conditions for people around the world. 

How does climate change affect polar bears?

Our mission is to conserve polar bears and the sea ice they depend on. We do this through media, science and advocacy, and work to inspire people to care about the Arctic, the threats to its future, and the connection between this remote region and our global climate. Together, we can make sure that polar bears roam the sea ice for generations to come, while also improving conditions for people around the world. 

Are you part of a larger group of organizations worldwide that are addressing climate change?

At Polar Bears International, we collaborate closely with government researchers, with national parks staff, and with other NGOs such as the Sierra Club and explore.org. We were a supporting partner of the Global Climate Strike and attend the UN climate change negotiations (also known as the COP meetings) every year. Finally, two of our staff scientists are members of the IUCN Species Survival Commission Polar Bear Specialist Group (IUCN PBSG), a U.N.-associated specialist group that produces and compiles scientific polar bear knowledge and provides independent scientific advice to decision makers and management authorities.

Why is it important to protect polar bears and their habitat from climate change now?

The science shows that it’s important to act swiftly and boldly to address the climate crisis—for polar bears and people, too. We still have a window of opportunity. 

 

If we continue burning fossil fuels and emitting greenhouse gases at the current rate, scientists predict that we could lose up to one third or more of the world’s wild polar bears within the next 35 to 40 years. 

Why is it important to protect polar bears and their habitat from climate change now?

The science shows that it’s important to act swiftly and boldly to address the climate crisis—for polar bears and people, too. We still have a window of opportunity. 

 

If we continue burning fossil fuels and emitting greenhouse gases at the current rate, scientists predict that we could lose up to one third or more of the world’s wild polar bears within the next 35 to 40 years. 

What are other ways we can help reduce our carbon footprint? 

There are many climate actions we can take even within our daily lives: make the switch to renewable energy options, update your home into a more energy-efficient version, get creative with your leftovers and avoid food waste, ride your bike or use mass transit. As you may notice, by the way, all of these climate actions aren’t just good for the climate, they’re also good for you and your bank account!

 

For more ideas on how to help reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and create a better future for us all, polar bears and humans included, see our website: polarbearsinternational.org/get-involved

What are other ways we can help reduce our carbon footprint? 

There are many climate actions we can take even within our daily lives: make the switch to renewable energy options, update your home into a more energy-efficient version, get creative with your leftovers and avoid food waste, ride your bike or use mass transit. As you may notice, by the way, all of these climate actions aren’t just good for the climate, they’re also good for you and your bank account!

 

For more ideas on how to help reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and create a better future for us all, polar bears and humans included, see our website: polarbearsinternational.org/get-involved